AMAZING DISCOVERIES......
I really don't know where to begin........! I guess I will start with a wonder of wonders, our finding a small octopus on Head Beach yesterday. It was a low tide hunt at 6AM since the tides are extreme right now. We walked the beach, trying to discern the clues on the wet sand - animals hiding or leaving a trail. So we were looking very carefully. One young camper came up with a winner. He called it an Octopus and I concurred. We have only found this animal once before, several years ago. These are small specimens, and the one we found could be easily overlooked. On the same outing, we found an unusual Blood Sea Star while climbing on the rocks of Joe's Head. These sea stars usually have five rays/arms, but this one had a branch on one of those rays which I had never seen before. Here it is, resting on a mussel encrusted with a pink algae that calcifies. These Blood Stars are atypical when it comes to the ones we usually find. They are smoother, feed on sponges, and brood their young. For whatever reason, this one has an unusual appendage.

Let's see, what else unusual has happened. I told you about the Polyphemus Moth we found in the salt water and how it laid eggs in a Surf Clam Shell. Well, I was sweating it out since the eggs hatched out tiny caterpillars, but they seemed uninterested in chewing the leaves I gave it! I kept finding these tiny larvae out of the container, and I worried that I might be offering it the wrong food! Finally, today the caterpillars started eating the leaves I provided. I was much relieved since I really hope to watch these caterpillars mature. The books show a rather elaborate caterpillar when it is fully grown and ready to make its pupa. So, stay tuned and I will keep you informed of their development. In the picture to the left, you see these small caterpillars. I gave it Maple and Oak leaves, and they are both being consumed.

I also had an interesting episode with a Monarch chrysalis about to have the adult butterfly emerge. I was concerned about it because it was attached to a leaf that had developed mold! Luckily, I came home to check on its status, and it was starting to emerge. I put my finger where it could climb aboard, away from the moldy leaf. It cooperated, though it was just in the developmental stage. If you have watched these butterflies emerge, you know that when they first come out of the chrysalis, the wings are small and the abdomen large. It looks deformed. In time, however, the insect pumps fluid into the wings and they expand and firm up ready for flight. This takes several hours. It all went well, and I took the beautiful butterflly outside to try its wings and mouth parts. Phew. In the picture to the right, the freshly emerged Monarch is hanging on to my finger for dear life! Its legs have little hooks that help, but I had a hard time getting it to let go of me. I finally left it on a leaf where it grew to normal proportions.
8/4/08 Ronnie in amazement!